Diet and lifestyle advice for the prevention of kidney stones

Diet and lifestyle advice for the
prevention of kidney stones
In this diet sheet we will give you general dietary advice to help prevent the formation of all
types of kidney stones. This will be followed by advice specific to the most common stones:
calcium oxalate, calcium phosphate and uric acid. Your doctor will discuss with you the type of
stone that you have or, if it is not known, the most likely type. Most of the advice is applicable to
all types of kidney stone.
My stone type is: ........................................... / unknown
What is a kidney stone?
A kidney stone is a clump of crystals which, when formed together, create a hard lump in one or
both kidneys. They can vary in size from a few millimetres to several centimetres. They can be
present for long periods of time without causing problems or may move causing discomfort. If
they drop into the ureter (pipe from kidney to bladder) they can get stuck and cause severe
pain. The majority of stones will pass out of the body in the urine without any help but some will
require intervention to remove them.
Your diet can affect the concentration of certain substances in your urine and can affect the
acidity of your urine. You may have had a 24 hour urine collection looking for any abnormalities
in your urine - if your urine has any of the following properties you will be at increased risk of
forming a stone:
High levels of calcium in the urine (hypercalciuria)
High levels of oxalate in the urine (hyperoxaluria)
High levels of uric acid in the urine (hyperuricaemia)
Low levels of citrate in the urine (hypocitraturia).
Calcium, oxalate, uric acid and citrate are normal substances found in the blood.
The acidity of any fluid is expressed as pH. A pH of less than 7 is acidic, a pH greater than 7 is
alkaline. Normal urine pH will vary during the day depending on diet and will usually range
between 5 and 8. Calcium oxalate stones can form in any pH of urine. Uric acid stones form in
more acidic urine while calcium phosphate stones form in more alkaline urine.
December 2011
General advice for the prevention of kidney stones
Maintain adequate fluid intake to produce at least two litres of urine per day. To achieve this
you will need to drink two to three litres of fluid per day and maybe more if exercising or in
hot weather. Drink enough to make your urine clear.
Limit salt intake to 6g/day.
Reduce intake of animal protein (meat and dairy).
Aim to achieve or maintain a healthy weight.
Maintain adequate dietary calcium intake (at least the recommended daily allowance) from
food sources.
Increase intake of fruit and vegetables (at least 5 portions per day).
Drink fruit juices but avoid grapefruit juice.
Ensure adequate fibre intake.
Tips and further advice
1) Fluid
Fluid intake reduces the risk of stone formation. When you are well hydrated your urine will be a
pale colour (like champagne) rather than very yellow (like lucozade). The paler urine is less
concentrated in waste products such as calcium, oxalate and uric acid and therefore less likely
to lead to stone formation. You should aim to drink two to three litres per day or enough fluid to
produce a urine output of two litres per day. This reduces the risk of recurrence by 30-40%. You
can easily monitor your daily urine output yourself at home.
Tips to help you increase your fluid intake:
Drink a large glass of water at specific times during the day e.g. when you get up in the
morning, when you arrive at work, after using the toilet etc.
Enjoy a glass of fruit juice with your breakfast.
Keep a large bottle or mug of water at your desk and sip from it throughout the day.
Try drinking through a straw, it may help you drink more.
Drink one glass of water each hour on the hour.
When you have a craving for a snack, drink a glass of water, squash or a fizzy drink (choose
diet if you are watching your weight) instead.
Add slices of lemon, lime or oranges to cool water. This gives it a pleasant flavour and helps
to alkalinise your urine.
Drink two full glasses of fluid at each meal – one before and one after eating.
Carry a refillable water bottle everywhere – walking, shopping, driving, watching television,
doing laundry, etc.
Flavour your water with squash.
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Eat more fruits and vegetables as they contain a high amount of water.
Include liquid and moist foods in your diet e.g. soups, stew, jellies etc.
The alkalinizing (to make less acid) effect of water with a high bicarbonate content is particularly
useful for those who form uric acid stones. Mineral water with a high bicarbonate content
increases citrate levels in the urine which is also useful. For those who form pure calcium
phosphate stones and who should avoid alkalinisation of the urine, water with a low content of
bicarbonate, i.e. tap water rather than mineral water, is a better choice. You should also check
the sodium content of mineral waters and avoid mineral waters with high sodium content.
Alcohol is generally bad for stone formation as it dehydrates you later on. Drink intake should
therefore be spread throughout the week (i.e. not in binges) and should be within the advised
weekly limits (21 units for men; 14 units for women).
Of the fizzy drinks, the colas (e.g. diet coke, coke zero, diet pepsi) have little alkalinising effect
on the urine and are therefore not good for stone formers. In one study, diet 7-up, diet Sunkist
and diet Sprite were the best and are a better choice for uric acid or calcium oxalate stone
2) Salt
A high salt (sodium chloride) intake is directly associated with a high calcium and low citrate
levels in the urine leading to increased risk of stone formation.
Limit salt intake to no more than 6g per day. Seventy five per cent of our salt intake is from
processed foods so in addition to limiting / avoiding the amount of salt you add to food you
should also check labels on food packaging.
Quick guide to checking salt content on food labels
(per 100g)
Less than 0.12g
0.12g – 0.6g
More than 0.6g
Salt (per 100g)
Less than 0.3g
0.3g – 1.5g
More than 1.5g
3) Animal protein
Protein is an important nutrient in the body. One of its functions in the body is growth and repair.
It is important that you eat enough protein to meet your body’s needs. There are both animal
and vegetable sources of protein (see table below) available to us in our diets. Some people at
risk of kidney stone formation have an excessive amount of animal protein in their diet e.g.
servings of meat greater than 100g per meal.
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Animal protein foods
Vegetable protein foods
Beans e.g. kidney beans, butter
beans, baked beans
A reduction of animal protein intake decreases calcium and uric acid in the urine and increases
citrate thus decreasing the overall risk of stone formation.
Protein build up drinks should be avoided.
4) Healthy weight
A healthy weight can be defined as having a body mass index (BMI) between 19 – 25 kg/m2.
This can be calculated by dividing your weight (in kg) by your height (in metres) squared (wt/h2)
e.g. if you are 80kg and 170cm tall then your BMI is 80/(1.7*1.7) = 27.7
There are easy to find online calculators that can do this for you. A higher BMI has been linked
to high uric acid levels. Urine pH tends to be acidic in overweight people and there is an
increased risk of most stone types.
5) Calcium
Calcium in the diet can be helpful because it binds oxalate in the gut, which prevents it from
being absorbed. Therefore low-calcium diets are not recommended as they result in increased
oxalate absorption to the body, higher levels in the urine and increased risk of stone formation.
It is important that you have normal levels of calcium in your diet but to avoid excessive
amounts (> 1200mg/day) unless you are a woman who is breastfeeding.
Recommended daily amounts of calcium
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11-18 years
19+ years
11- 18 years
19+ years
Here are some examples of the calcium content of foods:
1 glass of semi-skimmed milk – 355mg of calcium
150g pot of fruit yoghurt – 240mg of calcium
50g of cheddar cheese – 360mg of calcium
50g of tinned sardines – 275mg of calcium
80g of dried figs – 200mg of calcium
If you are taking calcium supplements you should discuss this with your doctor to see if they are
really necessary. Do not take them if you have not been advised to. This includes 'over-thecounter' medicines for indigestion. Taking the supplements at meal times with your food will
help to reduce the risk of stone formation (as it binds to oxalate in the gut). Calcium citrate
rather than calcium carbonate may be better as it increases the citrate in urine.
6) Fruit juice
Drinking fruit juices (orange, lemon, apple) appears to decrease oxalate and increases citrate
levels in the urine. However these can be high in sugars which can have a detrimental effect on
weight, general health and stone formation. There is mixed evidence for cranberry juice and
grapefruit juice. Overall while there is some evidence that fruit juices may help, increasing
intake is generally not recommended. They may be detrimental if you have calcium phosphate
7) Fruit and vegetables
Fruit and vegetables have an alkalinizing effect on the urine. They often also contain fluid which
helps with daily intake. Oxalate stone formers should limit intake of oxalate rich fruit and
vegetables (see below).
8) Fibre
A wide variety of high-fibre plant foods contain a compound called phytate. It has been
demonstrated in experimental studies that patients with a low phytate intake had an increased
risk of calcium oxalate stone formation and so increasing your fibre intake may be beneficial.
It is recommended that the average intake of fibre for adults should be 18g/day (individual range
12-24g/day). Please see the table below for the fibre content of some foods.
Average portion
Fibre content
Fibre content
per 100g
per portion
Wholemeal bread
2 slices (72g)
Baked beans
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Fibre cereal e.g. Weetabix , 45g
fruit and fibre
Dried apricots
Jacket potato
Brown rice
Additional advice for the prevention of calcium oxalate
Only a small proportion of urinary oxalate is of dietary origin (10-15%), so it isn’t necessary to
completely avoid oxalate containing foods, but you should aim for a moderate intake. Many
foods contain low - moderate amounts of oxalate. There are some foods which are particularly
high in oxalates, which should be eaten sparingly: All-Bran, almonds, beets, rhubarb and
The following foods are rich in oxalate (aim to limit intake to no more than one item from this list
per day:
 Some fruits - blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, currants, kiwifruit,
concord (purple) grapes, figs, tangerines, and plums
Some vegetables - Okra, parsley, leeks
Nuts and seeds
Cocoa and chocolate
Soy products such as soy milk, soy cheese, tofu and soy ice-creams.
Tea and coffee have a moderate oxalate content, aim to have no more than 2-3 cups per day.
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Additional advice for the prevention of uric acid stones
Purines are natural substances found in the body and in most foods. The body breaks them
down into uric acid. Thus if you form uric acid stones then try to limit the amount of purines in
the diet. Uric acid is also formed from body mass so weight reduction may help in overweight
Main dietary sources of purines
Meat sources
Fish sources
Other sources
All meat sources (e.g. beef,
Yeast and extracts
lamb, chicken, pork, ham,
duck etc)
Fish Roes
Liver, heart and kidney
Meat extracts (e.g. Oxo)
Beans and peas
Additional advice for the prevention of calcium phosphate
There is not much evidence for diet advice in patients who form calcium phosphate stones. In
principal the general advice above applies as well. It may be detrimental to alkalinise the urine.
Cranberry juice maybe beneficial as it acidifies the urine (orange and lemon juice will have the
opposite effect.)
Further information
Contact us:
Mo Kabia or Mitra Smith (Stone Nurse Practitioners) on 020 7188 3026,
then ask for bleep 2380 or 0659 and wait for a response. This will connect
you to one of the Stone Nurse Practitioners directly.
Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) – To make comments or raise concerns about the
Trust’s services, please contact PALS. Ask a member of staff to direct you to the PALS office or:
t: 020 7188 8801 at St Thomas’ t: 020 7188 8803 at Guy’s e: [email protected]
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Knowledge & Information Centre (KIC) – For more information about health conditions, support
groups and local services, or to search the internet and send emails, please visit the KIC on the
Ground Floor, North Wing, St Thomas’ Hospital.
t: 020 7188 3416
Language support services – If you need an interpreter or information about your care in a
different language or format, please get in touch using the following contact details.
t: 020 7188 8815 fax: 020 7188 5953
NHS Direct – Offers health information and advice from specially trained nurses over the phone 24
hours a day.
t: 0845 4647 w:
NHS Choices – Provides online information and guidance on all aspects of health and healthcare,
to help you make choices about your health.
Become a member of your local hospitals, and help shape our future
Membership is free and it is completely up to you how much you get involved. To become a
member of our Foundation Trust, you need to be 18 years of age or over, live in Lambeth,
Southwark, Lewisham, Wandsworth or Westminster or have been a patient at either hospital in
the last five years.
To join, please call 0848 143 4017, email [email protected] or visit
Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust
St Thomas’ Hospital, Westminster Bridge Road, London SE1 7EH Guy’s Hospital, Great Maze Pond, London SE1 9RT
Switchboard: 020 7188 7188
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Urology/PPG 2390
Review by: December 2013